Talk about a force to be reckoned with. Three Estée Lauder executives spoke to a packed house about product innovation for CEW’s Women and Men in Beauty Series event on March 18, titled “The Estée Lauder Companies’ Dream Team: Beauty Product innovators.”
Moderated by WWD Beauty Inc editor Jenny B. Fine, panelists Jennifer Balbier, senior vice president of global product development, artistry brands for the Estée Lauder Cos. Inc.; Anne Carullo, senior vice president of global product development for Estée Lauder and Tom Ford Beauty, and Karyn Khoury, senior vice president of Corporate Fragrance Development Worldwide for the Estée Lauder Cos. Inc. shared some of the breakthrough concepts meant to bring innovation to the beauty industry.
“The consumer’s voice is important,” said Carullo. “We hear it in real time; they’re incredibly engaged. They’re more involved than ever. And as a result we want to be closer than ever to them and there are many different vehicles to do so. Information and quantitative quality is really important, but you need to use a very discerning eye and very discerning ear, so that you can step back and question the information that you already have.”
All three women echoed the importance of the consumer’s voice, both analytical and social.
“I think you’re dealing with customers buying in real time,” said Balbier. “[With Facebook] you can just purchase something at any moment. And that’s a big change. We all said five years ago that wasn’t happening, but it is now.”
Khoury added that consumer information is critical, however there needs to be a balance between the consumer and the brand. “If you look at the history of our industry, the biggest successes often come from that leap of faith. But pure knowledge cannot replace the expertise and the intuition that comes from people who have been doing this for a very long time.”
The conversation moved onto to what’s most interesting about the customer right now and how they are changing.
“The customer wants to be part of the process,” said Khoury. “They want to know the story. You can no longer make up stories, there has to be thesis and fact. There’s a huge desire to know about the craft and that’s really exciting.”
The panel also touched on their creative processes.
“MAC is about backstage,” said Balbier. “You have to be with the artist, you have to test your products back there and you have to not sit at your desk.”
For Carullo, an important process in skin care is something she calls “tricking.
“You can’t always believe what you hear,” said Carullo. “When you neutralize what you’re presenting to the consumer, you’re able to get to the truth, a genuine response. It’s about finding new testing protocols to really get to the truth.”
The panelists discussed white-space opportunities, where to find it and how to find it.
“White space can be realized by a particular company, let’s say Estée Lauder for example,” said Carullo. “It’s a very big organization that plays in many categories. It’s very typical for us to find those little white-space opportunities, but certainly we can decide to participate in a segment that we’re not currently in.”
Balbier explained that BB Cream was white space to her and her colleagues when it first came on the market.
“That was something we all capitalized on immediately,” said Balbier. “It’s a hybrid product, it’s so current, and they’re wonderful. “
“The language is so critical,” said Carullo. “You hear the best technology in the world, you hear the best formula in the world. Give them a product that they say they love, have them try it, and you know what? They don’t really love it. Give them a product that you hope they love and put the key words, it makes a world of a difference.”